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Sol Kerzner gives up family empire eight years after death of heir apparent

By Jessica Tasman-Jones

South African hotelier Sol Kerzner, 78, has announced his retirement from the hotel industry and the sale of a stake in his eponymous company, eight years after the death of his son and heir apparent.

Last week the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), an arm of the United Arab Emirates government, confirmed it had bought a “significant” equity interest in the hotel group, which includes the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas and the One&Only resort chain.

Kerzner was the son of Russian immigrants to South Africa, and took over the family’s small hotel chain in 1962, turning it into Sun International, which, within five years, grew to 31 hotels and was on its way to becoming South Africa’s most successful hotel group. He founded Kerzner International three decades later in 1994.

Married four times, he became a father five times over, and his son Howard was appointed chief executive of the family business in 2004 – two-and-a-half years before his life was cut short in a helicopter accident.

Howard had been flying over prospective development sites in the Dominican Republic with a business partner and two pilots when the helicopter crashed killing all on board. He had joined the family business in 1992 after a career in investment banking.

Speaking on his retirement, Kerzner said it was a significant milestone after a “long and happy career in the tourism industry”.

One of Kerzner’s most well-known hotels was Sun City, which he built in the middle of the South African bush in 1979, and included simulated earthquakes among its novel attractions.

In 1998 he created the Atlantis resort, which featured lagoons with sharks, stingrays and jellyfish, as well a six-storey-high fake Mayan temple with four waterslides.

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